Joe Vitt: Saints players struggling, not just Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who has been intercepted nine times in the past three games, will play better when the rest of the team plays better.

When asked whether there is anything he could do to help Brees, who has thrown 18 interceptions this season, Vitt said the only thing he, as a defensive coach, can do is be there for the 12-year veteran.

“This is not Drew Brees; this is our football team, and the only thing that’s been a shortcoming on this team has been me,” Vitt said. “I’ve got to do a better job of preparing our football team. When we lose, we lose together.

“We don’t point fingers around here, and we’ll never do that. When everybody plays better, Drew will play better, too. There’s nothing I can do for him except to be there for him. We give positive reinforcement around here, not negative criticism.”

Martin impresses

Vitt hadn’t returned from his six-game suspension when the Saints visited Tampa Bay on Oct. 21, but he’s certainly seen enough of rookie running back Doug Martin.

Martin, the Bucs’ first-round pick this spring, had a 36-yard touchdown run and 85 yards in the 35-28 loss to the Saints. Since then, he has had four 100-yard games, including a 251-yard, four-touchdown outing against Oakland. On Sunday, he faces the NFL’s worst run defense.

“I don’t know that I have seen a back in the league this year make more yards after contact than he does,” Vitt said. “We put some film on, and you have defensive linemen and linebackers hitting him and he’s dropping those guys like third-period French. They’re going down.”

Practice report

There was no change in the Saints’ practice report Thursday: The same six players who didn’t work Wednesday sat out again. Not practicing were T Zach Strief (ankle), FS Malcolm Jenkins (knee), CB Corey White (knee), FB Jed Collins (toe), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) and T Charles Brown (knee).

For the Bucs, DE Da’Quan Bowers (hamstring) and G Jamon Meredith (ankle) were the only players who did not participate.

Manning leads voting

With 823,372 votes, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning continues to lead the way in online voting for the Pro Bowl, to be played Jan. 27 in Honolulu. Brees ranks ninth with 500,193 votes and is third among NFC quarterbacks behind Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (652,807) and Washington’s Robert Griffin III (537,459).

Saints punter Thomas Morstead has 88,037 votes to lead at his position.

Online voting ends after Monday night’s game, and players and coaches will cast their ballots next week.

Brees to host event

The inaugural Drew Brees Passing Academy and Tournament for high school players will be June 27-30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.

The academy, which will benefit the Brees Dream Foundation, will involve elite-level instruction from Brees and other NFL players and coaches. Attendees also will take part in three days of 7-on-7 competition. For more information, visit www.ksaevents.net/drewbreesacademy.

Roaf to appear

Former Saints tackle William Roaf, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, will appear from 10 to 11:15 a.m. Sunday at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum at Gate B on the Plaza level of the Superdome. Roaf played for the Saints from 1993-2001 and was a 2008 inductee into the Saints Hall of Fame.

Admittance is free to ticket-holders for three hours before and 45 minutes after each home game.

Tickets available

Saints officials said a limited number of tickets for Sunday’s game are available after the Bucs returned a portion of their allotment. They can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com.